Family · Parenting

The Final Curtain



This is a true story that happened over 13 years ago.


“Say your goodbye,” the emergency room doctor suggested, his eyes brimming with compassion. But the deep wrinkles etched across his brow revealed the weariness of all the pain and death they had witnessed behind the hastily drawn curtain.

Say your goodbye.

The beeping of machines dissolved into the background. The relentless ticktock of the clock on the ER wall paused as if waiting for my response. I felt myself sinking into black nothingness. My fingers shook as I clasped her limp hand and traced her wedding ring, its sharp edges jolting me awake. The abyss beckoned me: Don’t be afraid! Lean in! Peer into the darkness!

Say your goodbye.

I leaned over to kiss her pale cheek for one last time. I knew my mother was minutes away from leaving her body, but never expected the stark coldness, the unforgiving finality, the emptiness lying beneath my lips.

I wasn’t sure what to do next. I never had the chance to say goodbye to my dying dad. How do you say goodbye? What do I say? Thanks? Thanks for raising me? For teaching me hard lessons? I’ll see you again someday? Catch you on the flip side? Don’t go? Don’t leave me here all alone? Fear gripped my heart, squeezing the air out of my lungs. I was suffocating right along with my mother. A torrent of tears spilled down from my eyes onto her face. My entire body shook as I held onto her hand.  I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this. I can’t say goodbye. I’m not ready.

“Mom…I love you,” I sputtered into the abyss.

“I’m…..fine….don’t….worry,” my mother gasped, her breath gurgling between each word. “I love you…tell….your brothers…I love them.” She closed her eyes.

This was it. I can’t believe she’s dying. My mom! Dying! It’s just not real. It can’t be real. An ER nurse gently ushered me away from my mother as the doctor closed the curtain around the stretcher once again. She walked me to a small windowless waiting room separate from the larger waiting room outside the ER. This must be the private room for family members waiting for someone to die? Will they move me to an even smaller room when they tell me she’s dead? “We will try and get her stable,” the nurse said. “For now just wait in here. I’ll come get you if anything happens.”

It was midnight. Only bad things happen at midnight.

Only a few hours before I was drifting off to sleep next to my snoring husband and one-year-old son in our upstairs bedroom. A heavy rain pounded on the roof of our house. Without warning, I felt the atmosphere shift; the particles in the air pulsing and bright. Something is off, the universe whispered. Something big is happening.  Electricity surged through my body. The only other time I’ve felt this way was the night my dad suddenly died in a hospital bed 3,000 miles away.

I sat up, listening intently to the steady thrumming of the rain above our heads. I nudged my husband awake. “What was that? Do you hear that?”

“What? I don’t hear anything,” my husband whispered. “It’s just the rain. It’s nothing.” He rolled over to snore again.

But the rain wasn’t right; the wind urgent. Something was wrong.

I crept down the hallway and stairs into the dark kitchen. I wasn’t sure why I was checking, but I knew I had to check. An unseen force propelled me to walk through the kitchen to the door leading to our attached garage. I slowly opened the door, the wind howling outside in response. A low grown escaped from the shadows on the floor. There was my mom, lying on the bottom steps below her in-law apartment above the garage.

“I…can’t…breathe,” she whispered, her tiny frail body wrapped in her nightgown and bathrobe. She was still clutching her phone in one hand. She had managed to make her way down the steps to get help, but didn’t have the energy to remain standing long enough to knock on my door.

Now I was in a hospital, with my mother and The Abyss hiding a few feet away behind a thin white curtain. Soon two of my older brothers arrived and we waited, the foggy early morning hours bleeding into each other. Finally, a nurse entered the “Waiting For Death” room where we had sat for hours like stone statues. “She’s turned a corner! She’s stable!” she informed us.

We were stunned. The ER doctor suggested many times to me that she would probably die that night as she was drowning in her own fluids, her lungs almost completely filled from the congestive heart failure. But now she was suddenly stable. “If you hadn’t found her when you did…” he said to me, his voice trailing off.

My mom almost died that night back in 2003. I said my final goodbye, but the universe had other ideas. They transferred her to Maine Medical Center in Portland and a week later she underwent a quintuple bypass and valve replacement surgery at the age of 69. After the ten hour operation, she emerged feeling like a new woman. “I have a new heart now!” she told me in recovery. The surgeon informed us the average lifespan after such a surgery was 10 years.

Of course, her Mainer stubbornness proved him wrong. I’m thankful to have spent an additional 13 years with my mother and counting. She’s 83 now and enjoys relatively excellent health. I’ve let a lot of things go since she almost died. Peering into the abyss will do that to you. Our once stormy relationship has softened over the years to one of forgiveness, respect, and love.

Often we talk about those final moments; the time she was almost pulled over the edge. I’ve asked her more than once if it hurt to not be able to breathe, or if she was scared to die.

“Oh no, not at all,” she insists. “There was no pain. It was very peaceful. I saw your dad, you know. He was standing at the foot of my bed with two really big angels on either side of him. I knew I would be okay. Not scared at all. I was ready to go.”

I’ve seen death up close before when I was 21 and viewed my dad’s lifeless body lying in a coffin. I’ve carried the burden of not being present when he left us. I felt cheated out of saying goodbye to him. Yet the years of guilt, anger and sadness gradually faded away, transforming into acceptance and gratitude.

I don’t know why I went out to the garage that night. But the universe has a way of balancing things out. Saying my last goodbye to my mom that rainy October night prepared me again for the final curtain. I know when the time truly comes for my mom or me, I’ll be ready to jump into that abyss with less fear and more love.

facebook · Family · Humor · social media

It’s the End of the World as I Know It (And I Feel Slightly Uneasy)

As some of you are well aware, there are certain undeniable signs the End Times are near:

  • Oceans turn blood red.
  • Locusts! It’s raining locusts!
  • Leggings are a thing now.
  • Leggings! It’s raining leggings!

But recently I’ve witnessed another sign that it’s time to make peace with my maker.

My mom is on Facebook.


Just to give you some perspective — she has never used a computer, doesn’t know what the Internet is, and once had a lengthy conversation with a robocaller about her bowel issues.

It all started when my extremely misguided brother bought her a Kindle for Christmas. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he installed the Facebook app and set up her account. Then — here’s what sent chills down my spine — SHE SENT ME A FRIEND REQUEST.

Darla? ARE YOU THERE, DARLA?! I KNOW YOU’RE THERE! Hurry up! I could die waiting for you to friend me! Do you want me to die friendless, Darla?

My 83-year-old mother. The one who talks my ear off nonstop about gluten and loves Garth Brooks but thinks his wife’s chest is “too chesty and probably full of gluten”.

Now she can see all my stuff on Facebook. (gasp) She might even notice I have a blog. And that I’ve shamelessly used her as blog fodder for a few cheap laughs. Like this post. (ahem)

OH GOOD GOD! It’s like when the two worlds of George collided on Seinfeld. I need to keep things separate, people! Separate! Jeezum crow!

My husband tried to calm me down. “She won’t go on Facebook, trust me. She doesn’t even know how to turn on the Kindle yet!”

That night the phone rang. It was my mom. She wanted me to come over right away and help her “get on that page with all the people on it.”

Later, as I sat in her kitchen looking down at her Kindle, the smell of rice cakes burning in the toaster wafting through the 85-degree air, things got tense right away.

“Oh god! This Facebook is too much for my brain! I just don’t get it! And they keep changing the pictures on me! First there was a dog wearing a tie and now there’s a stupid video on how to make cereal! And they keep showing me a friend of a friend I don’t give a rat’s ass about! I mean, who in the hell IS THIS?! I wish I could get rid of them but I don’t know how!”

Then my mom entered the room.

“Did ya get me on that face thing yet?” she asked, biting into a blackened rice cake.

So this is how it all ends. With my mom leaving messages on my wall for everyone to see.




slide1The next day I was sitting in my car waiting for my son when it happened. A Facebook notification. My mom had “liked” a photo I put up on my wall years ago. Great — not only is my mom “liking” all my personal stuff — she’s a stalker.

Time to erase my entire blog after this post.


Mom for President 2020




My 82-year-old mother is running for POTUS. She figured she’d kick off her campaign immediately because, as she put it, “I might die in my sleep tonight.”

Also, The View is on at 2 pm.

I think she’ll win in a landslide. After all, she came up with a pretty sweet slogan:

Nagging We Can Believe In!

(It was either that or Well, I Guess The World Is Pumping A Handcart To Hell, Now Eat Your Damned Veggies Or You’ll Get Buttlogged)

Some of the things she promises to do once in office (and only if I take her shopping at the Christmas Tree Shop later this week):

  • Redecorate. The more doilies, cat knickknacks, and miniature Elvis figurines the better.
  • Require all thermostats to be set at 80 degrees. If the temperature falls to 79 degrees — Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock get blown up.
  • All state dinners will be gluten-free and served at 3:30 sharp.
  • Deport all of the “Karbuncles” unless they “for god’s sake, cover up!” Same goes for anyone else showing even a hint of “chest crack” in public.

    Kim doing her part for a kinder, gentler, less chest-cracky nation.
  • Make sure every vending machine in the nation carries rice cakes, prune juice and Sanka.
  • Vice President: Oprah.
  • Surgeon General: Dr. Oz
  • Secretary of State: Tony Bennett
  • Supreme Court justice: Betty White
  • Foreign policy: Sit up straight.
  • Domestic policy: Get a real job.
  • New national holiday celebrated from January 1st through December 31st: Happy Call Your Mother, Because You Never Know She Might Be Choking On A Rice Cake And Lying On The Floor Unable To Turn Up The Heat And You Don’t Want That On Your Conscience, Now Do You? Day
  • At every meeting, all world leaders will be required to wear a cat sweater. Because how could you possibly argue about climate change with someone who is wearing a cat sweater?


So please, vote for my mom in four years. And would it kill you to eat some broccoli? Jeez.

Family · Humor

Happy Impending Death Day!


Our culture doesn’t do so well with death. We don’t like to talk about it or even think about it.

Except for people who were born and raised in Maine. We’re more down-to-earth types who treat death like it’s a bad dentist appointment. Yeah it’s gonna happen to you one day so you might as well suck it up, deal with it, and move on.

My 80-year-old mother cheerfully sat down with me last week to go over her old family photo albums again because, “I might not be here tomorrow.” She has told me this every single day for about 15 years.

Anytime I try to plan something with her, she gives the same response.

“Hey, Mom! Want to drive up to Bar Harbor and see the ocean this August?”

“Sure! But I might be dead by then.”

“Hey Mom! Wanna go to L.L. Bean’s with me this weekend?”

“Sure! But I might be dead by then.”

“Hey, Mom! Want to go out to dinner tonight at that Italian place?”


“What — you’re not planning on dying later today?”

“Well, I’m hoping I die during the meal. Serves them right. They don’t serve Sanka. What kind of a place doesn’t have Sanka?”

So once again last week we sat down to sift through old family pictures because she might die at any second.  Her albums are full of faded sepia toned photos displaying the typically stern, emotionless faces of my relatives from the early 1900s.

I’m convinced the photographer must have yelled out the directions, “Frown! Frown harder! Look miserable! You’re sullen! No, I need more sullen! Dour! Do dour! Great! Hold that pose! Yes! You’re sad! Profoundly sad! Hold it! Hooold it! Perfect!”

Basketball is just so 'meh'. (My grandfather is the particularly ecstatic boy sitting in the front to the left)
(My grandfather is the particularly ecstatic boy sitting in the front to the left)

And most of my relatives died young of a horrible disease.  It’s a miracle I exist at all. My mother points her shaky finger to every person in the photo, tells me his or her name and how they died like she’s rattling off her grocery list.

“This is Charlie, died of tuberculosis. He was 35.”

“This is Charlotte. She died of tuberculosis. She was 15 years old.”

“Oh, and this is Sarah. Died of tuberculosis. She was four.”

“What happened to the dog?” I ask. “Please tell me he made it at least.”

Welcome to the early 20th century when even the dogs looked depressed. (My grandfather is the one holding the dog)
Welcome to the early 20th century when even the dogs looked depressed. (My grandfather is the one holding the dog)

After a few more photo albums filled with tuberculosis, my mom likes to throw in a zinger, probably to see if I’m really listening.

“Oh! And this is your great-great uncle Fred,” she smiles brightly and points to a handsome young man sporting a snappy blazer and smoking a cigarette.  “He was a pilot and flew his plane straight into the side of a mountain, killed instantly.”

“Wait — are you sure it wasn’t tuberculosis that got him?”

“Darla!” she scowls at me. Then she clears her throat. “Well, actually yes. The coughing is what made him crash the plane.”

My eyes bug out.

“I’m kidding! Kidding! Oh no, the poor man just slammed straight into a mountain! Boom! Never had a chance!” my mom yells, throws her head back and cackles.

And they say death isn’t funny.









Family · Humor

Jeezum Crow! It’s Christmas Again?

Not my real mom. (But very close)
Not my real mom. (But very close)

As some of you loyal readers know, my mother is quite the expert when it comes to sparkling conversation. She turns 80 years old this January and let me tell you, she’s more than earned her right to speak bluntly about every topic under the sun.  Hell, if I were her age, you’d better believe I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass what people thought of me or my opinions.

Fine, I think that now and I’m only half her age. Shut up.

Here are just a few of my recent favorite Jeezum Crow, Mom! gems:

About Movember:
“What — so they’re growing out their beards until they get a free prostate exam? Or their prostate is making them hairier? I don’t get it. The words hairy and prostate shouldn’t go together. You don’t see me growing out my chest hair for breast cancer awareness.”

After seeing Matt Lauer’s Movember beard on TV during the Macy’s parade:
“No, oh, no, no, no. He looks terrible! Shave it off! Where’s his face? On second thought, don’t shave it off, Matt.”


After hanging up the phone on Thanksgiving after having a pleasant 45 minute conversation with my brother who lives out of state:
“He’s on the crack cocaine, isn’t he?”

After stitching up a rip in my kids’ stuffed Luigi doll’s upper leg inseam:
“Here!” (She flings it onto my kitchen table during breakfast) “I fixed his ying-yang!”

Luigi, doing his part for Movember.
Luigi, doing his part for Movember.

While picking up and inspecting my kids’ Elf on a Shelf doll:
“Jeezum crow! This has got to be the ugliest thing I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot of ugly in my time.”


After reading about the psychic Sylvia Browne’s recent death in the paper:
“I bet she saw that one coming.”

Leaving a message on my brother’s cell:

Talking to me on the phone:
“Well, so when you gonna take me to the pharmacy to get me my pills? An old lady needs her pills! By the time you get around to taking me, I’ll be dead! You don’t want to kill your mom, do you? Well, DO YOU? Happy Thanksgiving!”

Leaving my house after Thanksgiving dinner:
“Well, thanks for the food! Not that I could eat any of it. But I enjoyed the turkey! Well, what was left of it. Enjoy the pumpkin pie I made you! Not that anyone touched it because it’s still sitting there on your counter, going bad. So let’s go Christmas shopping next week! Because if you don’t I’ll probably be dead and then you won’t have any presents from me. Not that anyone would notice or care. Happy Thanksgiving!”


I’m So Glad You Read That Book, Mom


It’s the weekend and I’m driving my  79-year-old mom around town on some errands.

Me: Ooh!  Gas prices seem to be going down!

Mom: Heh? Gas surprise and you wanna roll the window down? Well, be my guest.

Me: No, the gas PRICES are going DOWN.

Mom: Oh, don’t even get excited. In about 50 years, the world will end and let me tell you, the last thing you’ll be worried about are gas prices. First the earth will heat up so much, we’ll all have to live under domes. Trust me, you don’t want to be on the outside of the domes when that happens. Jeezum crow! You’d be toast!

Me: Domes?

Mom: Oh, yeah! But domes wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe they could keep a few people on the outside…y’know [makes quotation marks in the air with her fingers] accidentally… like criminals…[scowls] or Randy Travis and that god-awful, just terrible, awful woman, Rachel Ray.

Me: Rachel Ray? What in the hell has she done?

Mom: Oh, you don’t want me to go there.

Me: Oh, okay, I wo–

Mom: God, her voice!  It’s so deep! Like a man that smokes! And she’s always flapping her lips and running back and forth to the fridge. She thinks she knows everything about cooking. Well, here’s a tip, missy–put all the food you need on the damn frickin counter before you start babbling like an idiot and running around the kitchen like a chicken with its head cut off. There’s the first rule of cooking, Miss Rachel Ray. [speaks slowly, overemphasizing each word] Take. Out. The. Food.

Me: Okay. So–

Mom: And her chest is too small. [shakes head] Oh, no, no, no. Just too small for those revealing blouses she wears. Trust me, when we’re thinking about food, we certainly don’t need to see that.

Me: So what’s this dome book you’re reading called? [My mom always has a stack of New Age/Inspirational/Biblical books on her night stand] Is it The Apocalypse and You: A Practical Guide to the End Times?

Mom: It’s true, it’s gonna happen. Pollution will be so bad, we’ll have to live under domes just to breathe. But I’ll be long dead! [cackles smugly] But you, oh you’ll be dealing with it. And I say, good luck!

Me: Mom! That’s not very nice!

Mom: The Earth is going to end and we’ll have to go to other planets eventually. Uh-huh. But it won’t be all bad. We’ll have a new world filled with peace and love because we’ll all be on a new spiritual path. This is how it will be.

Me: Was this book written by Oprah?

Mom: Yep, this world is pumpin’ a handcart straight to hell. It’s too late to save it. Maybe if people would love and take care of one another more, we could survive as a human race. Ha! I ain’t bettin’ on it.

Me: Gayle! Oprah’s best friend! This book was written by her, wasn’t it?

Mom: We might be able to live on as a human race if we move to other planets. Sylvia Browne says there are already aliens living among us now. Maybe they can help us. Y’know… [leans in and raises her eyebrows] even someone like Oprah could be an alien!

Me: I could see that.

Mom: But anyway, I’ll be on the Other Side when it’s all over, living in my mansion up in the clouds, eating all the ice cream I want. But don’t worry, I’ll haunt you and try and help.

Me: That’s very reassuring, Mom. Thanks.

Mom: You’re welcome! [sighs softly like she’s just discussed the weather] So…what’s for lunch?

I guess I could live with this.
Yeah, I guess I could live with this.

Any other people you think should be “accidentally” left outside the dome? Maybe my mom can have it arranged.


Happy Mother's Day, Mom
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom


Like this? Want more?

I’m So Glad We Went Out to Eat, Mom

I’m So Sorry I Missed Your Call, Mom

I’m So Glad We Had This Talk Again, Mom

I’m So Glad We Had This Talk, Mom


Family · Motherhood

Losing Pieces of You

My five year old daughter’s first loose tooth had been hanging by a thread for about a week. She was very nervous about it coming out. “Is there gonna be blood? What if it comes out while I’m eating my goldfish crackers? Am I gonna eat it by accident? What if I swallow it? I don’t want to eat my tooth, Mommy!”

After I reassured her it wouldn’t hurt, she wouldn’t swallow it and there would be no blood (a tiny white lie), she spent the rest of the week standing on her tiptoes, gazing at the loose tooth in the mirror, gingerly wiggling it with her tongue. I tried to remember back when I lost my first tooth and I’m sure it was a bit traumatic. Or maybe I’m just remembering all the cruel ways my brothers suggested I rip it out of my mouth, most involving firecrackers or strings tied to skateboards.

To say losing a tooth is a milestone for a child is putting it mildly. And for a mom, it’s big. As in, ‘my sweet baby girl is growing up before my eyes and why can’t I do anything to stop it or slow it down?!’ big. Aside from the fact that she’s losing a small part of her old self, shedding a baby tooth, I am slowly shedding yet another part of my motherhood along with her. Think I’m being overly dramatic? Of course! That’s what being a mom is all about.

Last night my kids were doing the usual– jumping around their bedroom behind a closed door, whooping it up like a herd of elephants on speed. Then silence. The door flung open and my daughter raced toward me, her eyes wide and her mouth open. She held her hand out and there it was. A teeny tiny tooth nestled in her palm. “Mom! We were jumping and Christian knocked it right out of my head!” I smiled and shook my head. Typical brother.

“Tooth Fairy is coming! Tooth Fairy is coming!” she yelled and danced and twirled around the living room. She watched me as I put her first tooth in a ziploc bag and slipped it under her pillow.  I heard myself sigh. She’s lost a tooth. What’s next? Wasn’t it just yesterday when her first tooth erupted? Wasn’t it just yesterday she was wearing her little overalls and running around the house saying “baba” with her tiny wisp of hair and big hazel eyes, her chubby fingers grabbing mine?

I felt a tear well up, like it often does when a mom faces another milestone in her baby’s life. I brushed it aside, managed a smile and hugged my daughter tight. She grinned up at me, exposing the little space in front. I noticed right then just how different she looked now. How her entire face competely changed with the missing tooth. How grown up she was already, and how much more growing she had in front of her.

And just how incredibly lucky I am to be here to watch it happen.

Humor · Motherhood

Mom for Hire

OBJECTIVE            To prove that when you notice the huge 10 year gap on my résumé, snicker and ask, “What were you doing all that time?!” I wasn’t merely sitting around twiddling my thumbs and eating bon bons.  (Although some days I did take a few breaks and did just that.)


2000-2002              Fertility Specialist

  • Managed  and supervised an in-depth  and labor-intensive fertility project overseeing one disgruntled employee.
  • Daily progress was tracked with temperature readings, charts, graphs and my husband whining, “Do we have to do this AGAIN?!”
  • Goal was achieved after attending several meetings with various nurses, OB-GYNs and finally one prayer-filled seminar with The Big Guy in the Sky.
  • Assisted in creating an entire human being using only my body.
  •  Increased members of family by one healthy baby boy, increased household grocery consumption by 50%, decreased maternal brain cells by 30%.

2002-2003                Newborn Coordinator

  • Directed various sleep studies involving the length of time it takes for a subject to start hallucinating giant gummy bears dancing in the kitchen in relation to the few minutes of choppy haze-induced slumber one has per night.
  • Involved in product evaluations. Determined diaper wipe warmers are about as useful as another a hole in the head.  Also, breast pumps are not more effective if you crank the setting up to maximum and grit your teeth to get through the searing pain.
  • Managed one colicky baby every night for three months and implemented several tactics such as, walking baby around in circles while shushing, driving baby around neighborhood at 2 am and sobbing hysterically along with baby.

2003-2006                   Developmental Therapist/Lead Teacher

  • Lead instructor for a toddler child with sensory issues and more energy than an Energizer Bunny on speed fighting with the Tazmanian Devi in the midst of a hurricane..
  • Taught child how to count, how to recite the alphabet. Instructed child on proper hygiene, sleep habits, eating habits, social decorum. Lessons included: Hot Wheels are not for the toilet. Crayons are not edible. The cat is not a giant fuzzy doll that hisses. Addressed behavioral issues. For example, how not to hit, bite, kick another human being.
  • Subjects included: Respect, Kindness, Love, Curiosity, Imagination
  • Daily therapy provided:  giggling hysterically, dancing like everyone was watching, and running around the outdoors with wild abandon. Seeing the simple beauty, magic and joy in everyday things.
  • Goals achieved: 1) Raised one loving, caring, sweet, happy boy  2) Increased heart capacity by 1000%.

2006 to present             Mom Extraordinaire

  • Aided and assisted in creating and maintaining another human being using only my body.
  • Supervised two active, clever, bordering on maniacal children on a daily basis.
  • Provided safe, loving, nurturing home.
  • Taught subjects such as: sharing, caring, taking turns, being respectful of others, loving oneself
  • Goals Achieved: 1) Raised one sweet, loving, caring, happy girl. 2) Increased heart capacity by infinity.
  • Other Duties as Assigned: Chef, referee, maid, chauffeur, coach, dish washer, singer, dancer, party planner, counselor, public relations, nurse, doctor, teacher, professional hugger, boo-boo kisser, hand-holder, tear-wiper, confidence-builder and self-esteem engineer


    • Time Management  Able to flip pancakes, clean ketchup off ceiling, figure out an algebraic equation, unclog toilet filled with Polly Pockets, do 10 loads of laundry, drive kids to various practices, classes and play dates simultaneously.
    • Debating  Successfully presented and defended stance that Halloween candy consumed in large quantities for breakfast is a bad idea; flinging a Barbie at your brother’s head is a bad idea; jumping off the roof of the house into a snowbank wearing only underwear is a bad idea.
    • Patience  Able to withstand endless hours of ‘Why?’ questions, followed by listening to relentless whining, Spongebob episodes and sibling games of “But I’m Not Really Touching You!”  and “Stinky Feet”.
    • Love  Provided endless quantities on an as-needed basis until my heart hurt.

References Available Upon Maturity of Children.
Ask them how I did in 15 years. My guess is not too shabby.